If you’re the type of family who seeks out trails that yield the most magical view, Koko Head Crater hike should absolutely be on your “to hike on O’ahu” list. This out and back trail seems like it would be easy because the total distance traveled is less than 1 mile. There is a reason alltrails.com rates it as a moderate hike, though. In just one mile, you climb up to 1,200 feet above sea level. If that still doesn’t paint a clear picture for you, imagine walking a straight path up to the top of a mountain.
We were so excited to explore when we first arrived on island that we completely winged it with this trail. To say the least, MISTAKES WERE MADE. We all made it to the top and no one was hurt, but we did not have as enjoyable of an experience as we had envisioned. The Koko Head crater hike can be an absolute bear to complete without kids depending on your fitness level so there are special precautions to make if you have your tots in tow. Let’s dive in to a few tips on how your family can get the most out of your experience.
Pro Tip #1: Get To The Trail Early
Of all the mistakes we made, I would rate arriving at the trail at high noon the worst. We were under the impression that October weather would be mild so we would be okay poking around town and taking our time getting there. While you will still find ample parking during the afternoon, you will also find it is incredibly hot the higher up the mountain you get no matter the month.
There is no overhead coverage on the Koko Head crater hike. You feel every ounce of the sun beating down on you the whole way. Combine that with the steep incline and it starts to feel like you are walking through quicksand, especially if you are wearing kids. That’s not to say the heat makes this hike impossible. It does make it significantly less enjoyable and toddlers noticeably less enthused to keep going. Aiming for an early morning hike will help avoid some of the uncomfortably hot sun. It will also build up a great appetite for brunch (although you might get a little sweaty and dirty).
Pro Tip #2: Bring PLENTY of Sunscreen And Water
As I mentioned before, the Koko Head crater hike is uncovered so you will be exposed to the sun the whole time. You will need to apply sunscreen both before and during the hike. Make sure you have enough for the whole family for multiple applications. Also, because of the lack of coverage and steepness of the ascent, you are going to get thirsty.
We went up with 1.5 liters of water for all 4 of us and blew through 3/4 of that on the ascent alone. Even our son who was in the carrier was taking in massive amounts of liquid. Aim to have at least a liter for each person with you on the trail. Bringing a backpack or Camelbak is an excellent way to carry everything and keep your hands free. If you are carrying a child, I suggest a hiking pack such as the one my son is in below. They have tons of extra storage for sunscreen and other essentials.
Pro Tip #3: Plan On Taking A Few Hours To Complete This
I can’t emphasize enough that the Koko Head crater hike is steep. This means it will be extra taxing on little legs. Even though the trail is less than a mile long, you will have to take frequent breaks to give the kids a rest and to keep hydrated. We found the best system to get our then 4 year old to the top was making a game counting out 10 steps up. After 10, we’d sit off to the side for a short water break. These frequent breaks add up and quickly turn what you think will be a short hike into a 2 hour adventure.
It’s important to keep this in mind before you make any plans for the rest of the day. I would hold off on making any hard reservations later in the day if you have younger kids who will need more time to rest.
Plan Your Koko Head Crater Hike!
Although the Koko Head crater hike can be tiring and somewhat challenging for younger hikers, it is well worth the trek. You will be greeted at the top with a 360° view of the southeastern shore and mountains. Make sure your camera is charged and ready to go. This hike will easily be one of your favorites if you take the time to adequately prepare and save lots of time for your kids to rest. Even with the hardships we faced, I still rank this in my top 5 favorite hikes on O’ahu.
Leave a comment if you have attempted the Koko Head crater hike before or plan on going in the future. I would love to hear about all of your experiences. Also, make sure to subscribe to my email list if you like to stay up to date on my posts regarding hikes on O’ahu and other parts of the USA. Thanks for taking the time to read about our adventures out in Our Happy Place 🙂